You're watching Vagabrothers, and this is Uzbekistan.
I'm Marko, and you are watching Vagabrothers, and this is Samarkand, jewel of the Silk Road.
When you think of the great capitals of ancient civilizations, what do you think about? maybe Rome, ancient Egypt, or Cusco.
But you probably don't think of Samarkand, and yet this city is not only gorgeous, it played a crucial role in bringing the world closer together.
Put simply this was the center of the world for centuries, and it's the most beautiful and important city that you probably haven't heard of.
Samarkand is 2700 years old, approximately the same age as ancient Rome or Babylon.
Samarkand was a hub on the Silk Road, the ancient trading network that formed the first overland link from the Mediterranean to China, India, and Persia.
Samarkand was coveted by many, was conquered by Alexander the Great, destroyed by Genghis Khan, and rebuilt to its current splendor by Timur, the father of modern Uzbekistan, who turned Samarkand into his imperial capital.
This is the Registan, the central square of Samarkand and the most beautiful place in Central Asia.
Back in the day, this was a wall-to-wall bazaar.
This is where East literally met West.
In the 14th century, it's where Spanish traders encountered Chinese silk merchants and had an idea that would change the course of history.
cut out the middleman and find a sea route to Asia.
This is super interesting for me.
I've always been really passionate and curious about the history of globalization, how humanity went from a bunch of different distinct enclaves into a global village that we now are.
And there's no place more crucial to that story than the cities of the Silk Road.
This is really how the world became smaller by trade and also by the trading of ideas and conquests.
It wasn't always a pretty story, but there is a very central role that this place played over the years.
I'm really interested in learning more, and to that end we are surrounded by these beautiful madrasahs, which are like universities.
And right behind me there's a symbol of a tiger and a deer, and this symbolizes the tiger being the student and the deer being knowledge, and the sun being the teacher.
So hopefully we're going to learn a little bit on this trip and be like the tiger, get the deer, learn something along the way and hopefully you guys do, too.
This is Afrasiyab.
It's a giant big field right now, but it's the original city that dates back to 6th century BC, making it about as old as Rome or Babylon.
Pretty incredible to be in a complex like this, sprawling, massive ancient city that now just looks like a bunch of mounds.
There're pottery shards everywhere.
I'm literally holding what must have been a handle for a cup.
But I think that coming here, seeing this, it really spawns a lot of questions.
Why did they build this place? What caused them to leave it? And what if anything still remains? And I think that if we dig deep enough, we can find out.
Did you ever live next to a construction site that seems like it would just never finish.
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the 405 Freeway back home in LA? Well, compared to this place, that's just a blink of an eye.
This is a necropolis, Shah-i-Zinda named after the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, Kusam ibn Abbas.
He was here preaching Islam when he was beheaded.
And according to legend instead of dying, his body picked up his severed head, carried it to a nearby well, and went inside where he apparently is still living to this day, hence the name, ” the Living King.
” Whatever the truth, what we do know to be true is that locals have been building temples and mausoleums here since the 11th century, making it one of the longest continual construction sites in the world.
Right now we're in the back of the complex surrounded by the mausoleums of Amir Timur's wives.
He had a lot of them, but there's a couple of them entombed right here, and these buildings actually date all the way back to 1360.
There's a couple different architectural styles in this place, which is really interesting.
But this distinctive blue was really made popular by Timur.
When he conquered all of Asia he made this capitol extremely rich, and he knew that people are coming to visit the cousin of the Prophet Mohammad, so he put his generals and other notable people alongside that mausoleum so that they would also get visited and recognized too.
Kind of like Samarkand Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Yeah, but this place is absolutely gorgeous.
The architecture of Uzbekistan is one of the most defining elements, and all what makes it so beautiful is not just the blue but the geometrical designs, which are classically Islamic and are based in their mastery of geometry and all of the sciences.
Let's go find out more.
We're standing in what remains of the Observatory of Ulugbek.
He was the grandson of Timur, and unlike his grandfather who spent time conquering the world, he was a scientific man.
He built this observatory, and it's still accurate.
The predictions they made back then of the motion of the planets, the inclination of the earth, all sorts of astral observations are incredibly accurate to this day.
And it just goes to show how advanced the Islamic world was during the Middle Ages.
When Europe was in the Dark Ages, they were working on science; they were translating Greek texts so that they actually survived and helped the West find its own renaissance.
It's lunchtime in Samarkand, and we have arrived to the restaurant called Ikram.
It specializes in kabobs or kebap, as they're known here.
At the restaurant they offer eighteen different types of kabobs, and because we're here once, and you only live once, we've ordered all eighteen.
One of the problems or one of the benefits of traveling in this part of the world is that vodka is a celebratory aspect of almost every meal.
This is to get the body kind of going.
How do you say “cheers” this Uzbek? Chilik? Old dick Old dick Well, somehow we've ended up in a large golf cart, and we are getting transported from A to B.
We've made new friends.
Hello and we're going to the next destination.
They say that history is written by the victors.
But if that's the case, then why don't the history books not talk about Timor?, a figure as powerful as he was controversial, whose victories on the battlefield built an empire that stretched from Istanbul to India.
This is the Bibi- Khanym Mausoleum, the final resting place of the wife of Timur.
when he was born, Samarkand was in ashes, destroyed by the fearsome Mongol warlord, Genghis Khan.
And he saw himself as the heir to Khan's legacy.
And so for 35 years he waged a war of conquest that eventually united everywhere between Egypt and Persia, India and Russia, and he built this city as his capital, using the spoils of victory.
In Uzbekistan he's remembered as a hero who brought power, wealth, and prestige that's still celebrated and remembered today.
Not so much in the places he conquered who remember the brutal destruction of cities, the murder of tens of millions of people, and the ruthless repression of anyone who stood in his way, aka the Uzbekistan Tywin Lannister.
When the citizens of Isfahan refused to pay their taxes, he built twenty eight towers of human heads with 1, 500 heads per tower.
All up he killed 17 million people.
That's the equivalent of the entire casualties of the First World War or the entire population of the United States today, and that's without modern warfare.
Ironically, all this war made peace throughout the region and allowed this city to become one of the wealthiest on earth.
Just incredible detail.
The whole ceiling is just lit up and golden.
Do you believe in curses, you know, like ones involving the Staff of Ra, the Ark of the Covenant, Nazis? Well, don't leave just yet because this story involves Nazis, curses, and guess what? It's real.
Inside this mausoleum is the final resting place of Timur where it reads, “Whoever disturbs my tomb will suffer the wrath of an invader even more terrible than I.
” Flash forward to June 21st 1941.
Soviet archaeologists are about to pry open the casket of Timur despite warnings from the elders.
The very next day Hitler invades the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa sparking a conflict that kills as many people as all of Timur's wars combined.
Coincidence? Vengeance from the grave? You decide.
But one person who did believe it was Joseph Stalin, so much so that after a few months, he returned the remains from Moscow back to Samarkand, and shortly thereafter defeated the Nazis at the Battle of Stalingrad, turning the course of World War Two.
What a day.
Timur, hero-villain, badass? Undeniably so.
Here we are in the middle of Central Asia.
We've eaten lamb sticks.
You ate testicles.
You drank a bunch of vodka.
and we have had an epic adventure in Samarkand.
I love days like this because travel really makes you realize how little you know about the world.
And how little you are.
And how much more there is to explore.
The fact that a city like this can exist with stories like this and a character like Timur who most of us really don't even learn about in history.
It's really humbling.
It makes you realize how much more we have to discover.
So on that note you guys got to stay tuned for the rest of the videos in this series.
Yeah, we have quite a few more.
The adventure is just getting started.
Hopefully, you're not eating any more testicles.
But don't worry, we have a lot more to do.
So if you enjoyed this video, please give it a big thumbs- up, share it with your friends, subscribe, turn on notifications, if you have not already.
And as always.
stay curious, keep exploring, and we'll see you on the Silk Road.